It’s easy to fear the unknown, and planning for it is near impossible. Nevertheless, with technology advancing at breakneck speeds, planning for and even predicting the nebulous future has become an important survival skill. As we teeter on the precipice of a fourth Industrial Revolution, in a world where half of the jobs of today won’t exist tomorrow and where half of the jobs of tomorrow don’t exist yet today, plenty are wondering: how do I prepare for the future of work?

Avoid Endangered Jobs

In late 2014 and early 2015 the Youtube video “Humans Need Not Apply” hit the interwebs and caused a stir among those already fearful for their jobs. For those not entirely interested in watching a 15 minute video, the idea is that A.I. has become so advanced that soon it will be replacing the average human worker, leaving many jobless. Google’s recent AlphaGo win is a great example of this type of innovation and a huge breakthrough for A.I. and robotics. When you add the simple fact that certain A.I. topics, such as the self-driving cars we would have marveled at five to ten years ago, have become a boring topics of conversation today, it puts into perspective how quickly everything is changing.

The obvious piece of advice here for future job-seekers is to stay away from “endangered jobs”. This is mostly routine-based work, positions with titles such as “telemarketers” or “data entry keyers”, but is beginning to include positions we used to think robots could never take over (like “driver”, for example). Check out the last pages of this report by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne for more information of how likely a job is to be computerized. Featured below is a graph made by Derek Thompson of The Atlantic showing jobs at either extreme of the data set’s range.

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Stick With Jobs That Are Growing

Futurist Thomas Frey predicts that by 2030 over 2 billion jobs will not exist anymore, which is about 50% of all jobs on the planet. This is due, in part, to automation, but also to other technological advancements–the same sort that spurred history in the taxi-driver-replaces-coachman direction. Fortunately, machines still aren’t better than human beings at everything (yet), and some job markets are growing.

An important thing to keep in mind is that this proposed “revolution” we find ourselves in wouldn’t exist without the minds that put it in motion, and the keyboard-clacking fingers spewing out line after line of code. It should come as no surprise then by 2020 there’s expected to be a 30% increase in job opportunities for software developers, the architects of our digital infrastructure. In fact, it’s a pretty safe bet that anything requiring creative input and technical knowledge will stick around for awhile, as professions requiring that special mixture of human interaction and knowledge of skills are being amplified by tech and computers, but still are not being replaced by them.

According to Business Insider, aside from your architectural techies and cyber-sec savants, it appears that teachers, lawyers, and health care specialist are all predicted to be in high demand between now and 2024. Leading the pack by far are those in the healthcare field, particularly for RNs and Nurse Practitioners, caught in an interesting position between technological change and a large population on the precipice of old age and health care related needs, amounting to a 46% increase in senior demographic between now and 2025. The inability to fill those jobs is a serious concern, as we definitely have the right number of human beings on the planet–the problem is properly educating them.

Keep Your Mind Sharp

Who’s at the door? Just your new handyman! Image via wiki.

An article from The Economist begins: “Innovation, the elixir of progress, has always cost people their jobs”. It’s a sobering thought that stands on its own, a paradox of sorts it would seem–but it’s true. A century ago, the number of agricultural producers and farmhands in the U.S. numbered around one in three Americans. That number has hit around 2% of Americans in the modern day, and that 2% probably produces more food now than their spiritual ancestors could have ever hoped to.

Trying to stop technical advancements from nulling and voiding certain modern day jobs would be just as useless as farmers that may have tried halting the Industrial Revolution; the long-term benefits to humanity outweigh the short-term pitfalls, and technological advancements will inevitably trudge forward. But what was an out-of-work farmer in the 19th century to do for a job? How would a third of the U.S. population produce a livelihood? The answer in the past, as it is now, was education.

Many of us take literacy for granted. If you’re reading this, right now, I’m willing to bet you do it every day–but there was once a time when reading wasn’t important to the working class American. Lucky for everybody that’s benefited from public schooling in their lives, the government realized that a literate population was imperative for a successful, modern economy.

Continued education and educational reform are going to be integral to the future of work, and are already hotly contested political topics today. While some think that colleges will advance lives by someday being free and enhanced greatly by networking technology, others fear that college is becoming the new high school. Either way, what’s important is that the exchange of ideas and the creation of new ones are going to be key skills in demonstrating a strong mental foundation–hands down, the single most important quality a person can have in a world where machines do most of the manual labor.

Be Flexible and Take Predictions With a Grain of Salt

Of course, nobody can predict the future. 10 years ago, social media websites didn’t even exist. Now they’re so “everywhere” they’re inescapable. In fact, social media marketing, SEO, blogging–any industry related to that brand new invention they called “the internet”–either didn’t exist or was in its infancy. In fact, a surprising number of people hold jobs that didn’t exist at all when they were kids, and author Cathy N. Davidson predicts that 65% percent of today’s children will be in the same boat when they grow up.

It’s important to remember that not everything can be predicted. No matter how hard you try, some black-horse, gravitational wave-breakthrough might turn the world upside-down and redefine work everywhere.

Not to worry though; hedge your bets, stay away from endangered jobs, and keep educated, and you should be just fine.

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